Over 21,000 Ethiopians Repatriated from Saudi Arabia in Six-Week

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia has airlifted 1,008 citizens stranded in Saudi Arabia today, taking the number of migrant workers repatriated in the past six weeks to more than 21,000.

Authorities resumed the repatriation operations that airlift Ethiopians who are detained in Saudi Arabia for illegal entry on Nov 21, 2022.

Today, three planes have arrived at Addis Ababa airport bringing in 1,008 Ethiopian nationals back home, says the Ministry of Women and Social Affairs (MoWSA) on Friday afternoon.

More than 240 women as well as 70 children and minors under the age of eighteen are among the returnees.

The necessary support is being extended to reunite the repatriates with their families, says the Social Affairs Ministry.

Today’s arrivals have brought the total number of repatriates who came in since mid-November to 21,421, as per MoWSA data.

The ongoing repatriation operation, led by a committee composed of 16 government offices, involves providing, rehabilitating, and reintegrating the returnees with their families.

The committee initiated the operations of bringing Ethiopians living in harsh conditions in Saudi Arabia back home on March 30, 2022, with a plan to repatriate 102, 000 citizens in up to eleven months.

In the first round which lasted until August 29, the authorities were able to achieve 70% of the target by repatriating 71,697 citizens via 198 flights.

They are now pushing to bring in the remaining more than 30, 000 Ethiopian migrant workers detained in Saudi for illegal entry during the ongoing second round.

Simultaneously, foreign minister Demeke Mekonnen, who made a rallying call to the public to tackle human trafficking, said this week that public awareness campaigns on illegal migration will be strengthened, especially in parts of the country where the problem is prevalent, in a bid to curb human trafficking.

Every year, thousands of Ethiopians risk their lives making the dangerous journey via Yemen hopping in search of better jobs in the Gulf nations often in the hands of the smuggling networks.

Many, however, often end up stranded in Yemen, held under the control of dangerous smuggling networks, or in Saudi Arabia’s prisons for entering the country without legal travel documents.

At least 700,000 Ethiopians currently reside in Saudi Arabia. Many who traveled to the country through irregular means may need help to return home, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)